ESAS was founded in the Autumn of 2000 by Marcus Croft, Doug Hastings and Andy Lawes. Here are the recollections of those early days by the Society founders and other early members of the Society.
The Forming of ESAS ~ Recollections of founder member Doug Hastings
In 1999 I was lucky enough to witness the total solar eclipse at my in-laws who had retired to Cornwall. This prompted me when I returned home to Robertsbridge to start looking for local astronomy societies that I could attend and possibly join. I eventually found the details of Hastings and Battle Astronomy Society (HABAS) and started attending meetings there for a few months where I met one Marcus Croft.
In the summer of 2000 I was again going to stay in Helston, Cornwall with my in-laws and as they had what used to be a camp site for a back garden, I extended an invite to the whole society to come and camp there for a long weekend/week as the skies were beautifully dark and thought it would give everyone a free holiday and the chance to do some serious observing. The only person that actually bothered to come was Marcus. On the few nights we had together we did some observing and discussed the apathy of our current society, it was then we decided we could do things differently and decided to form our own Society.
Marcus was already friendly with Andy Lawes and felt that Andy's experience with societies would stand us in good stead and Marcus also felt that Andy had the same kind of drive and enthusiasm that we shared. It was either the end of August or beginning of September 2000 that we had our first meeting to talk about and organise the society. At the meeting were Marcus and his wife Sharon, Andy and his soon to be wife Emily, my wife Melanie and I.
At that meeting we decided on the name of the society, the ethos of what we wanted the society to be about (which is on the website home page unchanged) and the formation of the first core committee of Andy Lawes Chairman, Doug Hastings Vice-Chairman, Marcus Croft, Secretary.
Our next step was to register the Society; Andy worked at St. Mary's school in Bexhill and managed to organise for us to meet there and we decided upon the first Thursday of each month. I don't think there was any particular reason behind this other than it suited us with our other commitments.
The rest of the preparation up until our first meeting is a bit of a blur. Obviously, there was some local advertising and word of mouth to try and bolster the membership but effectively, the first meeting was pretty much committee, family and friends. The first meetings were filled by various talks from Andy, Marcus and myself.
Within the first few months of the birth of our society, there was a SAGAS (Southern Area Group of Astronomy Societies) meeting which Andy and I attended as Marcus was on holiday at the time and much to all of our surprise, Andy and I found ourselves volunteering our fledgling society to hold the SAGAS Annual Summer convention. You would love to have seen the look on our secretary's face when we told him this! I think at the time amongst the other societies in SAGAS, there was a lot of doubt whether we could pull it off or even if we would still be a going concern by that time. A few frenzied months of planning were then put into effect over the winter of 2000/2001. We also held our first schools talks over this period and it was February 24th 2001 that the then Committee went to see Sir Patrick Moore and asked him to be Honorary President.
I moved to Cornwall in May 2001 and was unable to attend the SAGAS meeting due to a back injury. There was a society visit to Cornwall later that year and that was the last contact I had.
Doug Hastings, Deputy Chairman 2000 ~ 2001